The human creature is one that competes. We have developed this way (not evolved: I believe evolution is an illusion--you'll have to take a look at Name of Alt or The Lost Dialogues of Table 18 to find out why ;) ) as a result of the requirements for survival forcing their rules upon our lineage. Gazelle falls over dead, you eat it or your neighbor does in the olden days. Might even have had a battle on your hands if you wanted a piece of that meat.
Fast-forward 20,000 years and not a lot has changed. And that got me to thinking.
Are you a writer? An E-bayer? A mortician? Doesn't matter. Somebody wants what you have. Somebody wants your audience, your customers, your position, your money, your stuff...
As a writer, I've been doing the usual; pounding down the articles and stories about the craft and business of writing like an alki at an open bar. Drinking them in, one after another. I was not suspicious that anything was "off," or, certainly, that anybody was intentionally misleading me, until I read a few articles or blog entries in a row that seemed to advise counter-productive methodology for writing, getting published, and promoting your work.
Militaries have used it since the beginning of militaries; mislead, misdirect, and win. Let your enemies believe that what they want is east, not west. Make them believe that what they need to survive is around the corner, rather than across the street. It is very effective, especially if you can get your "enemy" to trust their source of information... best example: the double agent.
For those that don't know, a double agent is a spy that is caught and then offered incentive (or life) for then pretending that he/she was never caught and, instead, passing misinformation back to the force that he/she was initially spying for as well as reporting accurate information back to the original enemy, who they are now working for.
Get people to trust a source, and then control that source, and you control all of the trusters to one degree or another.
If I want to get to the top of the N.Y. Times bestseller's list, why would I want competition? Why would I want you, another writer, to succeed? Wouldn't my best interests be served in directing you toward a less lucrative, more diversionary path toward writing success? Wouldn't clearing my competition by directing them to the exits and off-ramps from the highway of success then open up my lane? Wouldn't a seller of some product do well to get other sellers to believe he was giving tips for their success, even if he were really just trying to make them lose their focus and chase phantoms about?
Question what I write. Ask yourself what my motive is. Don't believe me until you have run everything I say through your mind in a critical way. They are out there, these people. Some of them are incredibly deceitful and crafty and will mislead you only one out of ten times; just enough to get you to be less likely to be chasing their own goal along the same path.
This goes for anybody in any profession. You may have somebody in your office that you've worked with for 10 years who starts sharing "inside" information with you. You may start finding that as you digest this information and put it to use, things start to change in a negative way for you. Don't think that just because you can't figure out their motive or because you've worked with them for ten years that they haven't decided to try to send you off into a forest of danger, while promising you that a pot of gold is hidden in that forest. Question every single piece of seemingly good advice you get.
Example: I've heard many writers say things like, "You should never write a book until you've read a whooooole bunch in the genre you wish to write in." Wrong. That's delay. You want to read some to learn form; fine. But two or three popular ones are more than enough. (Not only that, but reading too much of what's out there will ultimately start to dictate your own style; you'll be copying their styles and losing your own unique angle, mostly unconsciously, further reducing your chances of success. Don't lose your voice to try to look like somebody that did it right already; ask any reader. They get tired of repetition; they want fresh, unique, and exciting writing that also must be well-written and you can make that happen without becoming a mere reflection off of a large lake; make your own damned lake and make it better than any other lake, ever).
I read very little fiction, and I do that on purpose to protect my unique voice. I had to read my share in school and in college, just like you, but outside of that formal venue, I've only read about ten fiction novels in my life. I don't want my brain to use some accomplished writer's style as a crutch, and it would just as yours would. You can read allllll the rule, writer's style/craft, and publisher advice books you want if they are from a credible author (we must watch for the double agents) but you should stay away from reading too many from your chosen genre, or you will lose yourself.
That deviation was necessary; in the business of misdirecting, it is your source that is the enemy. In the business of imitation, it is your source that will shine through, not you.
This applies in any field. Question your source, never fully trust anybody, and always follow your gut (it'll be wrong here and there, but by and large, that gut feeling comes from a culmination of complex thoughts and senses that we do not understand and you must trust it, accepting that it will be wrong on occasion, but if you'll just trust it, you'll begin to recognize when it was wrong and why, and in that way, you'll hone that sixth sense; that gut feeling. It'll become deadly accurate, and deadly accurate is what you want your direction to be in a world where increasing numbers of misdirectors are waving their flags in front of your face...)